To date, Colorado and Washington State are the only two states that have legalized the personal possession and private use of certain amounts of marijuana. Both states have adapted their respective criminal laws to provide no penalties for anyone who possesses or uses privately less than one ounce of marijuana. Several other states, while not fully legalizing any amount of marijuana, have decriminalized the possession of smaller amounts of marijuana by eliminating any jail sentence for first time offenders.
The Illinois legislature, on the other hand, continues to have very strict marijuana laws on the books. For example, if you were charged with possessing the one ounce of marijuana that would be completely legal in Colorado or Washington, you would face penalties of up to one year in jail. If you are accused of possessing over 30 grams (just over one ounce), you can face felony charges, one to three years in jail, and fines up to $25,000. To put that in perspective, possessing over one ounce in Colorado is a petty offense carrying a fine of $100 and no possible time in jail. Many people believe it is time for Illinois to be more progressive in its treatment of those who possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Proposals for Lesser Penalties
Three proposals are active in the Illinois legislature that seek to amend the state Cannabis Control Act to provide for lesser consequences for certain marijuana possessors. None of the proposals go so far as to suggest that the state legalizes any amount, however they do seek to eliminate the possibility of jail time for possessing certain smaller amounts of marijuana. All three bills are similar, with small differences in applicable amounts of marijuana that should be decriminalized. The following are brief descriptions of each:
- House Bill 4091—This bill would change the Cannabis Control Act to reclassify the crime of possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less as a petty offense, with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. If an individual has at least two prior marijuana possession conviction on their record, the charge will be a Class A misdemeanor, with jail time up to one year.
- House Bill 4299—This bill proposes that possessing 10 grams of marijuana or less will be a petty offense carrying a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. Possessing 10-30 grams would additionally be a petty offense, but only for a first offense. Any subsequent offense involving 10-30 grams could be charged as a Class A misdemeanor, which is still more lenient than the current felony charges for a second offense.
- House Bill 5708—This bill is perhaps the most progressive, proposing that possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana be a petty offense with a $100 fine, while possessing 30-500 grams of marijuana would be a Class A misdemeanor.
All of the proposals are still pending and we will be paying attention to their progress through the legislature. In the meantime, if you are facing charges for possession of marijuana or any other drug, call experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney Steven Goldman at Goldman & Associates today.